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Where to find it: Bulk Olive Oils and Vinegars 

To properly ripen, olives require a long, hot, growing season. Olive trees have been grown throughout the Mediterranean region since ancient times. During that period, olive oil was "liquid gold" and provided a basis for international trade. Today, some of these Mediterranean countries pride themselves as having the "best" olive oil. Spain produces the most while Italy consumes the most.

The taste of olives, like grapes, changes with the climate, region, cultivar and soil. Thus, the olive oils produced throughout the Mediterranean (and the U.S., Australia and South Africa) have a distinct taste profile. Additionally, how olives are harvested, produced, stored and bottled impacts the flavor. Unlike pressed grapes, though, long-term storage for olive oils is not desirable: the fresher the oil, the brighter the taste.

Four months ago, Pasta and Provisions (1528 Providence Road), Charlotte's quintessential old style Italian grocery, created an olive oil and vinegar "bar." Oils and vinegars are contained in Italian-made, 12-liter stainless steel fustis with spigots, which line a shelf behind the front counter. Currently, they have five olive oils — two Italian, one Greek, one Spanish and one Californian — and three vinegars on tap. Oil prices range from $11 to $16 for half a liter.

Owner Tommy George says they started this program with the environment in mind, since the idea here is to refill containers and not add to the landfill. Bottles are sold at the store, but patrons are welcome to bring containers. Sampling of the oils and vinegars is offered.

Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the QC? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: or 704-522-8334, extension 136.

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